Revisiting California’s Date of Separation

Revisiting California’s Date of Separation

Certain dates are memorable in a person’s life. Many dates, like birthdays and anniversaries, are celebrated. But when a marriage is over, and it’s time to file for divorce, another date becomes critical – the date of separation. California law has evolved on this subject, but people thinking of filing for divorce need to understand the effect that date can have on their divorce settlement.

A Simple Term, Right?

“Date of separation” seems straightforward and easy to understand. In a divorce case, however, the date is much more than a square on your calendar.

Courts will use the date of separation as defined by California law when deciding property division issues in your divorce. Here’s what California Family Code Section 70 says:

70.(a)  “Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following:

(1) The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage.

(2) The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.

This means that certain aspects of your divorce depend on getting the date of separation right.

Property Division and the Date of Separation

Married couples usually acquire assets and debts during their marriage. Most of those assets and debts are considered to be community property owned by the couple. However, couples often have separate property and debts that only one spouse owns.

During your divorce, it’s necessary to decide what’s community and what’s separate. In a community property state like California, community property is usually split roughly 50-50 between the spouses. There are some exceptions, however.

The “complete and final break in the marital relationship” can be hard to determine. Some couples decide to split but continue to live together and commingle funds. Couples can continue to live together during the divorce, but at least one spouse must exhibit conduct that “is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.” Calculating the date can be difficult but is necessary.

For example, one spouse might get a large bonus from work while the divorce is pending. Did this happen before or after the date of separation? If before, then the bonus could be community property. But if it’s paid after the couple is officially separated, it might qualify as separate property.

In fact, division of financial payments, property acquisitions, and so on that occur while the divorce is pending could become complicated if the date of separation is unclear.

We Can Help Sort Out Your Date of Separation and Other Divorce Issues

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Southern California Coast.